DOC NYC 2020: Truth to Power

Rep. Barbara Lee in Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me.

Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me is a powerful and inspiring biography of the highest-ranking Black woman in Congress.

Only one person voted against the 2001 authorization for military force.  That person is longtime Rep. Barbara Lee.  While she is the only one to go through with her feelings on the vote, other colleagues regret not joining her.  A number of colleagues are interviewed about this including Lynne Woolsey (D-CA, James Clyburn (D-SC), John Lewis, D-GA), and Walter Jones (R-NC).

Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC):

“A lot of us had real misgivings about the bill but none of us, save one, had the guts to follow those feelings to a vote. Barbara was the only no.”

The late Congressman John Lewis (D-GA):

“I said to her on many occasions: Barbara, I should have been on that side.”

Since the vote took place in 2001, the authorization to use military force has been invoked by three U.S. presidents to authorize military action.  Every year, the congresswoman introduces legislation to repeal the 2001 authorization.

The late Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) is among the many Republicans to join her.  He is of the belief that Congress should have the power, not the president.  Jones, who died in 2019, feels the pain for his own vote.  He would become one of the chief Republican critics against President George W. Bush.  His comments precedes a montage of elected officials speaking out in favor of the repeal.  Lee’s amendment finally passed the House of Representatives in 2019.

A single mother who raised her children on food stamps, Lee has been a leader when it comes to fighting poverty.  Her life changed as a result of Shirley Chisholm’s presidential run.  Lee also realized the importance of Rep. Ron Dellums when she met him during the Chisholm campaign.  Dellums–a giant in the Civil Rights movement–served in Congress for almost thirty years.  Lee would internet for the late congressman before becoming his chief of staff.  Following Dellums’s resignation from Congress in 1998, Lee won the special election to take his place.  She has been in office ever since.

Lee is not afraid to task risks.  Poverty and mass incarceration are among the issues in which she has taken the lead.  Lee also spoke out in support of AIDS relief and reached out to President Bush.  Former Bush chief of staff Josh Bolton speaks of how critical Lee’s support was because of Republicans not wanting to increase foreign assistance.

Van Jones makes a comment about Lee’s relationship with President Bush.  She is the only person to vote no but she’s not afraid to reach across the aisle to get work done.  Jones notes that Lee is against injustice while favoring solutions for real people.  This is how Congress should be working and yet, it’s very hard to get work done with different parties in charge of each chamber.

Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me joins a growing list of must-watch documentaries on politicians.

DIRECTOR:  Abby Ginzburg
FEATURING:  Barbara Lee, Cory Booker, John Lewis, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Van Jones, Danny Glover, Alice Walker

Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me screens during DOC NYC 2020 in the Portraits program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.